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J Phys Chem B. 2015 Mar 12;119(10):3901-11. doi: 10.1021/jp510745d. Epub 2015 Feb 18.

Simulating the distance distribution between spin-labels attached to proteins.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and ‡Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago , Chicago, Illinois 60637, United States.


EPR/DEER spectroscopy is playing an increasingly important role in the characterization of the conformational states of proteins. In this study, force field parameters for the bifunctional spin-label (RX) used in EPR/DEER are parametrized and tested with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The dihedral angles connecting the Cα atom of the backbone to the nitroxide ring moiety of the RX spin-label attached to i and i + 4 positions in a polyalanine α-helix agree very well with those observed in the X-ray crystallography. Both RXi,i+4 and RXi,i+3 are more rigid than the monofunctional spin-label (R1) commonly used in EPR/DEER, while RXi,i+4 is more rigid and causes less distortion in a protein backbone than RXi,i+3. Simplified dummy spin-label models with a single effective particle representing the RXi,i+3 and RXi,i+4 are also developed and parametrized from the all-atom simulations. MD simulations with dummy spin-labels (MDDS) provide distance distributions that can be directly compared to distance distributions obtained from EPR/DEER to rapidly assess if a hypothetical three-dimensional (3D) structural model is consistent with experiment. The dummy spin-labels can also be used in the restrained-ensemble MD (re-MD) simulations to carry out structural refinement of 3D models. Applications of this methodology to T4 lysozyme, KCNE1, and LeuT are shown to provide important insights about their conformational dynamics.

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